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Today at the Mobile Marketing Association's NYC Forum, the CMO of The Home Depot, Trish Mueller, gave a gangbusters presentation on the impact mobile has had to her company.
As she was showing off what The Home Depot's mobile app can do, she mentioned that users of the app can literally place a physical bolt onto the screen of an app to correctly size the bolt, making it easier to find the bolt in the store:
You can find more fascinating stats from Trish's presentation below, but to zoom out and be more macro for a bit: The app's bolt functionality is an awesome example of something that my co-founder Isaac and I have been discussing a lot recently:
Vinod Khosla is a legend in Silicon Valley. He's the powerhouse behind Khosla Ventures. Way before that, he was one of the founders of Sun Microsystems, and then became a general partner at Kleiner Perkins. He's also done many other amazing things. Vinod gave the keynote at Stanford's recent Graduate Business School event. Afterwards, I gave a breakout session talk with Heidi Roizen, where she called me a cockroach.
Vinod's keynote contained all the stuff you'd expect to hear from a super successful entrepreneur and VC. For most people, I'd imagine it was underwhelming in its obviousness, but only because hearing someone talk about what it takes to be successful is so different from actually doing it. Vinod offered no magic bullets. Just a solid list of advice that any current or want-to-be entrepreneur has heard and internalized. Things like, "Be a risk taker." "Be a good listener."
That's the entire point of why I'm writing a blog about his talk. There are no silver bullets. The key is to execute flawlessly on the basics. And that's so incredibly hard that most people don't do it.
Vinod highlighted the importance of perseverance in his talk. But the actual example of how he got into Stanford business school is what makes it shine, and what separates him from so many others.
If I weren't so passionate about the ways that mobile devices are changing the world, I'd be spending my time in one of the following three areas: Crypto currencies like Bitcoin, the commercialization of drones, and the rise of 3D printing.
Oh, time is so our enemy. Even a long-lived life only amounts to 750,000 hours or so. And as per my recent keynote at the 2013 Mobile Outlook on a "Framework for Stupid Ideas," one of my guiding principles is to "focus on focus" to maximize the value of each of those hours. Since mobile is my deepest passion, I'm not willing to dedicate the time to dive into any of these other things.
Another of my framework points is to play in a "space that matters." And these three spaces really, really matter -- that much will be obvious to everyone in the span of a few years. So I'm hoping that some other entrepreneur will be as passionate about one of these three spaces as I am about mobile. I figured I'd present a few highlights from each of them to showcase why they're such a big deal.
I just got a preview of a hot new coworking space that's brand new (literally weeks old) in downtown San Francisco. The address is 880 Harrison street. Here's a video I just did of the space.
If you're interested in leasing space here for your startup (or would like to do an event in this space or inquire about the Hacker Hostel), please leave a comment below and I'll introduce you to the people running it.
The space is going to be called "Startup House." It's three levels, with offices on the 2nd and 3rd floors. The lower level is a HUGE open space, where they're going to put co-working desks (and the rumor is, maybe some exotic cars sprinkled around -- you know, for character).
There's also a separate part behind the main building where the owners are considering putting a "Hacker Hostel" for out of town developers (or just those who need a place to crash). The embassy of New Zealand is going to be putting a launch pad space in the building. Thanks to Elias (the guy behind StartupBus) for showing me around the space
After writing recently about what Elon Musk has been able to achieve, I've been thinking a lot about blockers that cause people and companies to fall short of their goals.
This assumes that those goals have been clearly defined. That's often the first problem. Getting everyone in a company on the same page to achieve the same macro objective is the first step in the process. A great litmus test for this is to randomly stop an employee in the hallway and ask them what business they think the company is in. The more varied the answers, the less this first crucial step has been achieved.
And personally, many of us are not working towards a macro goal, but rather, we're just trudging along, one day at a time. I often see people working towards secondary, more immediate objectives without having a clearly defined macro goal. So although it sounds obvious: To achieve success, one first has to define what success means. Have you set macro goals for your life? Mine, in prioritized order, are:
Yesterday a group of students from my alma mater, the University of Virginia's McIntire School of Commerce, came to visit. They were spending a week in Silicon Valley as part of their spring break.
I've long privately urged McIntire to become more entrepreneur friendly. When I was a student at U.Va. in the late 90's, it was a very unfriendly place for entrepreneurs. It seems that things are finally changing, and the fact that these students were in California on spring break says a lot about their enthusiasm for tech startups. I've also written in the past about how high school students have seemed more receptive and responsive to becoming entrepreneurs than college students. It's almost like if one doesn't get introduced to the hunger to be an entrepreneur at young age, it becomes hard to impossible to stoke it later. But this trip made me feel like there's hope for helping people find a passion for entrepreneurship later in life. No matter what, though, I stressed to the students that came to visit that the passion had to come from within them. The best a school can do is support those that want it badly enough to try.
We spent an hour together, and I shared stories with them about how I paid for college by making UVa-branded Frisbees, and sold a card called the Hoos Savings Club Card. (It was way ahead of it's time -- basically an analog version of a daily deals service like Groupon). Here are some related pics:
I'd go around to shops in the Charlottesville area, get them to agree to provide discounts to students for the school year, print the discounts on the back of the card, and sell the card for $20 to students. For anyone in college today, it's a concept that would work just as well now as it did 15 years ago, and it's a great way to make $20k to $50k while you're in school, if you're willing to have a little bit of hustle.
The recruiter business is broken -- at least in San Francisco. I get multiple calls each day from recruiters and they're all pitching the same "exceptional candidate" that's perfect for our company's needs. I always politely tell them to take me off their lists, but yesterday I had a recruiter refuse to do so. Then he sent me the email below, extorting me by saying he would take me off his list only if I'd look at his candidate. Below is how I responded to him. I cc'd a manager at his company, and Lowell Isom & Erica Jarmen at the National Association of Executive Recruiters.
If you're a recruiter and you're reading this, you need to re-think your approach. It's not working. And because of bad apples like the guy below, I won't use any recruiter.
If you're an entrepreneur looking to hire top talent, what I do recommend is AngelList's Job board. It's very, very good. And you cut the recruiters out completely, which is a nice bonus.
Here's the extortion letter I received, with my response at the top:
I recently got an email from a friend that said simply "I am getting too many e-mails. How do I organize them? Sometimes I need to research an answer, but then forget for whom it was and I totally forget about it as they get buried. How do you manage your e mails?"
Here's how I do it:
No software email client: I used to use an email client like Outlook or Thunderbird, but I found that by switching to a web interface for email I have much more control over it. I have multiple inbound email addresses -- two work addresses, a gmail address, an Apple email address, an alumni address, etc. I have all my mail forward into my personal email account, which is a Google Apps-hosted address. Here's what that looks like:
Using the web-based email interface also lets me leverage all sorts of great advanced stuff, like using Rapportive, Boomerang, and many other email tools that I rely on. Also, using the Google Apps interface for my email allows me to use Google's powerful "important and unread" feature which prioritizes emails from people I know or that Google otherwise thinks I should see first.
I went to get my car washed today in freezing weather, the day of a massive snow storm about to hit DC. Needless to say, nobody else was there. (Why did I do this? Because the car desperately needed to be waxed + interior cleaned, and I'm not in DC for long). The experience got me thinking about dynamic pricing and customer loyalty.
Businesses typically try to use frequent-purchase tactics to drive loyalty, like a "buy 9 get 1 free" card or, in the case of airlines, frequent flyer miles. But I believe there's a better way to drive deep loyalty while at the same time maximizing the revenue a business gets: Dynamic pricing, with a Hedge. Here's what I mean:
As I mention in the video above, to say it was a slow day at the car wash facility would be putting it nicely -- I must've been one of only a couple dozen customers they would have the entire day. It's expensive to keep a carwash open on a day like today, including paying at least 10 employees to sit around and do nothing.
In our previous startups, my co-founders and I have always had a desire to have a strong "always on" remote connection between offices. Back when we had DC & SF offices a few years ago, we tried setting up what we called "Project Stargate" using Skype. However, the connection would keep dropping, so after a few months we abandoned the effort.
The main lesson we learned from that experience was that reliability matters above all else. The best remote connection setup in the world will fail if it isn't rock solid.
With that in mind, when we sold Socialize to ShareThis, we were suddenly in a situation where our SF office was joined by offices in Palo Alto, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Texas, Boston, and others, so this remote connection issue became even more important to solve.
Luckily, there's a great startup called Sqwiggle that's working to solve this problem. They've taken an innovative approach: Instead of solving the vexing issue of having a reliable "always on" video connection, by default, users are shown in boxes together but as black & white thumbnails that update every 15 seconds or so, meaning the only thing that has to stay "always on" is an old-school web page. This always lets people be "together" while still having privacy, as there's no audio or video unless two or more parties enter into a conversation.